Extra Virgin Olive Oil and the monocultivar olives

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Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Olive Variety

Seeing there are a vast range of olive cultivars in Italy, (as well as France, Spain and Greece) so today my interest turns to the following four monocultivar olives: 

 

A bit of history

But before doing so, I’d like to draw your attention to their historical and cultural background.

Clearly, olives have always been part of our diet for thousand of years, long before other trades exsisted.

In the past Italian olive groves met the requests of Rome, where both upper and lower classes indulged into the consumption of this fruit on a daily basis, together with oil cakes, but was also used to fill oil lamps, consequently when travelling and illuminating the nation.

It also played an important part in history, as Gladiators rubbed olive oil into their skin before going into the Arena to fight, as the body proved too slippery to grasp, an awkward task indeed!
Also used to warm the body, protecting it from the cold. Needless to say, still used in the cosmetic field, restoring suppleness to skin, thus leaving a radiant effect. Fundamental in haircare, too!

Even though considered more as a condiment, this oblong fruit, slightly pointed at one end and an inch in length, is essential to almost any dish. This edible thin skinned fleshy fruit varies from an unripe yellow-green to a deep dull green, and black when ripe.

Olive cultivars are mainly divided into location of origin and most names of cultivars come from place names. Secondly, they may also be used for dual purpose, both an edible fruit and olive oil. 

Yet olives are amazingly diverse and versatile, whether ground into spreads for bruschetta, or even tossed into salads, cooked in stews, roasts, sauces, in aperitifs, or just simply eaten out of hand. Their sweet, sour, salty, bitter and tangy flavour are remarkably complex, making them an indispensabile ingredient in any cook’s  pantry.

Olive varieties get their distintive qualities from their genetics, region and climate, depending on how they are harvested – sometimes even hand- picked to avoid bruising - and cured, resulting in olives with unique personalities. Marinating, seasoning, suffing, results in a countless olive menu.

1 - Ascolana Tenera 

Olives are grown in Ascoli Piceno, Marche region, in Italy. Extremely large, with a 16 – 18% oil content, and light in taste when pressed. Also used as green and black table olives. When chosen for green table olives, usually picked when still unripe. After placed in brine, are generally meaty, soft with a slightly tarty flavour. Above all, ideal in the preparation of Olive all’Alascolana, stuffed and fried, which have duly received the PGI status.
The Extra virgin olive oil made with Ascolana Tenera are considered by many as a very high quality oil. You can try the one from Il Conventino Fra Bernardo Extra Virgin olive oil.

2- Picholine Olives

These are the most widely available variety of olives in France. Generally combined with another olive tree for pollination.

The oil content is only medium range, 20 – 22 %, and when under irrigation can plummet as low as 15-18%.

Oil is good quality, with a fruity but slightly bitter taste. Before pressing procedure, many olives are allowed to ripen on trees. Excellent for table olives, and cocktails. Torpedo shaped olives are magnificently crisp, and crunchy producing a tarty, nutty and aniseeded flavor.
Try the Extra Virgin Olive Oil Picholine from Poldo

3 - Raggiola Olives

Raggiola are intense bright green olives, both profound and complex, with a fragrant quality that relates to that of artichokes, producing a light herbaceous taste. Well balanced and persistent, with a slightly bitter, and spicy touch, and a hint of green  almond.

Cultivated adjacently to Cartoceto, usually harvested mid September to October, when olives are still green and unripe, and owes its characteristics to the production in a climatically ideal area.
Try the Fra Pasquale Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Il Conventino

4 - Leccino Olives

Therse are usually cultivated in the Tuscany region, being harvested earlier than in southern Italy in order to avoid frost-bite. This however gives them a lower olive yield but ensures an assertive flavour. Apparently considered to be the upmost, perhaps owing to its mild sweet peppery taste and flavour. Also a good source of iron, copper and vitamin E.
Try the Leccino Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Poldo

So what’s your favorite way to enjoy olives?

By Adriana Tenan

 

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